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The theological ethics of the evangelical church of the eighteenth century made but a quite temperate use of German philosophy before the time of Kant, and insisted but little (not without some influence from Pietism) on the antithesis of the two evangelical churches in the sphere of ethics. Buddaeus furnished the first scientific system of ethics, though in its philosophical elements it is rather eclectic. Stapfer, Baumgarten and others, applied the Wolfian philosophy in pedantic minuteness to Christian ethics; while Mosheim constructed it more upon a purely Biblical basis, and upon that of practical life-experience. Toward the close of the century the superficiality of Rationalism began already to make itself felt.
Francis Buddaeus of Jena, one of the most learned and sound theologians of the eighteenth century, a man of comprehensive philosophical culture and who wrote also a thoughtful, evangelically-inspired system of practical philosophy (Elementa philosophiae practicae, 1697, and often), prepared the way, with his Institut. theologiae moralis (1712, ’23, 4to.; in German as “Introduction to Moral Theology,” 1719), for a more thorough, systematic treatment of ethics. The rich, carefully and some times rather lengthily treated subject-matter rests upon sound Scripture exegesis and careful observation of human life. Influenced somewhat by Spener, this writer combines practical sense with a scientific spirit. He begins at once with the thought of the corruption of human nature and with that of divine grace, and hence gives not a general philosophical, but only a specifically-Christian system of ethics, in view of man as regenerated. The ground-thought of morality is: man must do every thing which is essential to a constant union with God 325and to the restoration of God’s image, and must avoid the contrary thereof. The whole subject-matter is distributed, (1), into moral theology (in the narrower sense of the word), which treats of the nature of regeneration and sanctification in their collective development,—(2) into jurisprudentia divina, which treats of the divine laws and of the duties resting thereupon,—and (3) into the doctrine of Christian prudence, which presents the practical carrying out of the moral in detail, and especially by clergymen. For the future development of evangelical ethics, the thorough treatment of the first part is especially valuable; Buddaeus finds in Christian ethics not merely the manifestation, but also the progressive development of the spiritual life of the regenerated. He presents as chief virtues: piety, temperateness and justness. (Buddaeus has been much used by other writers, also by J. J. Rambach, 1739, and by J. G. Walch, 1747).
The Reformed divine, John F. Stapfer of Bern made, in his rather comprehensive than scientifically-important system of ethics (1757), a very moderate use of the Wolfian philosophy. The earlier Calvinistically-rigorous spirit is here already very much modified. Sigismund Jacob Baumgarten (of Halle, a brother of the philosopher) follows, in his discursive “Theological Ethics” (1767, 4to.), the painfully-minute manner of Wolf, which is applied also in his numerous other writings, and which leaves absolutely nothing unsaid, not even that which every reader could supply for himself; and this pedantic discursiveness detracts considerably from the otherwise real thoroughness of the treatment.—(The Wolfian philosophy was applied to theological ethics by Canz (§ 40), by Bertling , and by Reusch ; J. C. Schubert [1759, ’60, ’62] is more independent.)—The not sufficiently prized P. Hanssen: (of Schleswig-Holstein) gave in his “Christian Ethics” (1739, ’49) a very clear and sound presentation of the evangelical doctrine,—a work which gives evidence of a truly philosophical spirit, and protests against the one-sidedness of Wolf; in the first general part, he develops the threefold form of the moral life—in the state of innocence or perfection, in the state of sin, and in that of regeneration. T. Crüger (of Chemnitz) develops, in his Apparatus theol. moral. Christi et renatorum (1747, 4to.), the thought of the moral pattern as found in Christ, and hence of 326an ethical Christology and of its application to the life of Christians, with great profoundness and uncommon erudition, though in a somewhat stiff, over-carefully-classified, scholastic form.
Mosheim’s comprehensive “Ethics of the Holy Scriptures,”242242 1735-70; continued by Miller, 1762; Miller wrote also a special Einleit. in die theol. Moral, 1772, and a short Lehrbuch, 1773. though in its sometimes almost hortatory discursiveness, often unnecessarily detailed, yet differs from works of the Wolfian and the earlier schools by a beautiful, animated and popular form, free of all stiff scholastic-elements, and gives evidence of a close observation of life, of impartial and profound study of the Scriptures, of a simple, mild, evangelical spirit, and of a thorough and careful attention to details; but the scientific demonstration and development are frequently feeble, and, despite all his insisting on the rationality of Christian morality, the philosophical element is almost entirely overlooked; the antitheses of view, as developed in the two churches, are not made prominent. The whole subject is distributed into the consideration of the inner holiness of the soul, and into that of the outer holiness of the walk. Miller’s continuation of the work, though furnished with more learned apparatus, is less mature and also less inviting in form.—Crusius, whom we have already mentioned as a philosophical moralist, wrote also a “Moral Theology” (1772) which is inspired with a philosophical spirit, and gives evidence. of deeply Christian knowledge.—Töllner, 1762, wrote rather on the treatment of ethics than on ethics itself,—already quite Rationalistic; Reuss, 1767, uncompleted; the work of G. Less, (1777, and subsequently), is not important; H. C. Tittmann, 1783, ’94, endeavors to be strictly Biblical but is without depth; Morus’ work, 1794, is imperfectly edited from his lectures,—partially based on Crusius, frequently rationalistic. The Englishman, Thomas Stackhouse, wrote on Christian ethics in a plain and Biblical spirit, treating mainly only of general questions. The Reformed divine, Endemann of Marburg, closes the series of Reformed moralists (1780), but he bears the distinctively Reformed character only in very feeble traits.327
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